Tuesday, November 20


[St Hope is part of the alleged salvation of the DC school system according to its new masters]

LAUREL ROSENHALL, SACRAMENTO BEE, NOV 12 - The Sacramento City Unified school board is reviewing one of its most politically charged decisions: whether it made the right call in 2003 in giving the city's namesake high school to a nonprofit group run by a retired basketball star.

Kevin Johnson's St. HOPE Corp. has asked permission to run Sacramento High as a charter school for another five years. The board will decide by the end of December whether to renew the charter, which allows St. HOPE to run the school free from many of the regulations governing traditional public schools.

The charter school's success has become a matter of great debate. Some of the teachers who bought into Johnson's vision of giving disadvantaged kids a private school-style education for free left after a couple of years. They say St. HOPE hasn't lived up to its promise.

Some students who tried the school have pulled out, and Sacramento Charter High School has not attracted the nearly 2,000 students it was intended to serve.

But the roughly 1,100 students there now say it's a place where they feel safe, cared for and academically challenged. . .

Over the past four years, as the portion of Sac High graduates going to college has gone up, SAT scores have gone down. On California's standardized tests, Sacramento High students are improving, but so are all students in the state. So even though the percentage of kids proficient in math and English has risen, Sacramento High scores remain in the bottom 20 percent statewide – the same ranking the school has had since 2002, when it still was run by Sacramento City Unified.

When Sacramento High reopened in the fall of 2003 as an independent charter school, St. HOPE made many changes intended to improve that shoddy performance. It made the school day longer, hired nonunion teachers who were available to students around the clock, and paid for kids to go on college tours. . .

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given Sac High more than $4 million. While test scores aren't where the foundation would like them to be, spokeswoman Carol Rava Treat said, "we feel confident in their commitment" to getting disadvantaged kids into college. . .

Among Sac High's class of 2007 - the first to graduate under four years of St. HOPE leadership - the school reported that 70 percent of graduates went on to a four-year college. But a closer look shows that the class of 2007 - which started with 505 freshmen, according to state data - shrank by 48 percent over four years. Only 262 graduated. . .

Critics say St. HOPE allows only well-behaved students to stay at the charter school, leaving problem kids to fill Sacramento's neighborhood schools.

And some teachers who joined Sac High when it became a charter school have left disillusioned and bitter. They thought they were signing up for a revolution in public education, several former teachers said. Instead they found erratic leadership, classrooms without enough desks or books, and frequent 12-hour work days.

"It was intensely mismanaged from Day One," said Barbara Modlin, who quit after 2 1/2 years teaching English. "I felt like the doors were opened and the teachers were pushed (into the classroom) and the doors were closed. We were given no support."

When enrollment dropped, former teachers said, St. HOPE asked teachers to recruit middle-schoolers as they walked home from school.

"It was demeaning. I'm a professional educator and I'm supposed to stand on a street corner and recruit kids?" said Mara Harvey, who taught history at the charter school for two years.


At 5:13 PM, Anonymous said...

(From the same newspaper)

Editorial: Progress dictates renewing Sac High's charter

School board should stop undermining this school and let it continue its mission


Published 12:00 am PST Monday, November 19, 2007

The Sacramento City Unified School Board faces an important decision: Whether to renew the charter school established at Sacramento High School.

When the board closed Sacramento High School in 2002, Sac High was one of 24 failing California high schools. The board reopened it as a charter school in September 2003.

The board should make its decision based on facts and common sense, not narrow political agendas. The board and community should examine the school's academic progress – and the district's performance in helping or hindering Sac High's success.

Though charter school opponents have won seats on the board, Sac High has met state requirements and should gain a five-year renewal. While this school of predominantly low-income, minority students is not yet where it wants to be academically, it has made progress. State data tell the story:

• The Academic Performance Index in the last year of the old Sacramento High School was 568 on a scale of 200 to 1,000. In the first year of the new charter it was 576; last year was 631, a 65-point gain. The school wants to get above the statewide performance target of 800.

• On the state's required exit exam, the old Sacramento High in its last year had 63 percent of students pass English and 50 percent pass math. Last year, the charter school had 71 percent pass English and 67 percent pass math.

• On the 2007 California Standards Tests, African American students at the charter school did better than the district average in English by 11 percent. English learners did better in English by 25 percent.

• At the old Sac High, 20 percent of students were accepted to a 4-year college. In the charter school's first graduating class of 2007, 70 percent were accepted to a 4-year college.

On one key issue, Sac High has had difficulties: enrollment. When Sac High closed in June 2003, it had 1,794 students. Last year, the charter school had 1,147 students. It would like to have 2,000.

But Sac High is not the only high school facing declining enrollment. Hiram Johnson High School went from 2,726 students in 2002-2003 to 1,925 students last year.

Sac High faces a unique obstacle. The school district has shut out Sac High from key parts of the recruiting pipeline. For example, Sac High got word from Sam Brannan Middle School last week that it would not be allowed to recruit students at the High School Fair. The district has denied Sac High access to the names of the district's 7th and 8th graders and to the January "Open Enrollment" lottery in the district's schools.

That obviously undermines Sac High's efforts. And the board is considering undermining Sac High in another way.

Though high school enrollment in Sacramento is flat or declining, the board wants to open a new, 500-student high school within two miles of the old Sacramento High School boundary – without a serious assessment of whether it is needed or wanted. In a blatantly political move, the board is considering "co-locating" this proposed new school at Sac High.

On Dec. 6, the board should delay a decision on the proposed new high school. On Dec. 20 it should renew the Sac High charter. The school has earned the right to continue.


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